President Obama States the Obvious, But Will Hanna Skandera Listen?

“No standardized test should ever be given solely for educator evaluation.” – President Barack Obama, 10.24.15

Yup, President Obama has seen the error of his ways, fessed up that we’ve gone off the standardized testing deep end, and to please forget our gut and heart-wrenching journey atop the “Race to the Top” educational death rocket we’ve been strapped to for a decade or so now.  Understandably, Obama’s mea culpa has been met with scorn and more scorn from many, including John Thompson writing for HuffPo riotously pointing out that the Administration now supports attempts by states such as Minnesota to rig the testing/teacher evaluation connection by lowering the impact of testing to absurdly low percentages, like 1% (naturally New Mexico still has the impact at upwards of 50%).  Now that’s funny stuff.

But let’s get back to that opening quote from the President:  “No standardized test should ever be given solely for educator evaluation.”  And let’s keep it in mind as I tell a little story.

The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of New Mexico “End of Course (EOC) exams throughout K-12.  The primary focus of these tests has been at the high school level, as the scores are supposedly required to graduate (in a bewildering and disingenuous way that would require 50,000 words, five flowcharts and a Prezi running until next Tuesday to explain).  Middle and elementary school students don’t have to “pass,” and, in fact, almost zero mid/elementary kids and their parents even know their EOC scores from last May.

On top of that, New Mexico Public Education Department hasn’t even gotten around (and yeah, it’s now October 26th) to releasing the “cut scores” for these mid/elementary EOC tests. That it to say, PED hasn’t told anyone what score constitutes “passing” these tests.  We teachers can see raw scores, but have no idea whether a “24” means good, average, failing or what.  Thus, the scores are meaningless in terms of guiding instruction or offering insights into curriculum.  They are only “good” for one thing:  establishing “VAM,” i.e. evaluating teachers.

These New Mexico mid/elementary EOCs are a perfect example of what the President criticized the other day.  While I personally find much to loathe in the Administration’s approach to K-12 education since January 2009, I can’t argue with him here.  No standardized test should EVER be given solely for education evaluation.  I only find it mystifying it took the guy so ******* long to have this amazing epiphany.

But tell that to Hanna Skandera and the PED.  The last few months your humble blogger has had an interesting back and forth with some folks in APS over just when PED would get around to publishing cut scores on the May 2015 middle school tests.  I’ve been told that dates have been announced here and there by PED.  September was mentioned at one time.  But it’s October 26th now, and I’m feeling rather confident we’ll be saying the same thing on November, December and March 26th of 2016, too.

Oh, one more thing.  Last year your humble blogger made several phone calls and emails to PED asking when we teachers could expect not only cut scores but a comparison Excel spreadsheet outlining how districts and schools around the state did on the 2013-2014 EOCs.  You know, like the SBA data in years past.  I was actually told more than once by PED that the data was forthcoming, including statements such as “someone is working on that right now.”

Well, that “someone” must have had a heart attack, because the data never came out.  2013-2014 EOC testing teachers never had an idea how their kids did relative to other schools.  The only time those scores meant a damn thing was when they got the mysterious sheet of paper with their VAM, often miscalculated, from PED, along with their overall evaluation.

Thanks for waking up President Obama.  A few years and a few million mistreated kids and teachers late, but thanks…I guess.  If you really want some kudos, how about you call Hanna Skandera at 3:00 a.m. every one of the next 250 days or so to repeat what you told the nation the other day?

 

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